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By Tina Y. Gerber - McCurley

I was blessed, I was never picked on in school, even though I was a slow starter. I made it through high school without much peer pressure, when asked if I wanted smokes, drugs, or alcohol. Yet, I saw lots of bullying and peer pressure in the lives around.

However, when I started a job in my 40's I got some firsthand experience with bullying. At that time, it never occurred to me I was being bullied, as there was little awareness of what bullying was. I just dug my heels into the dirt and refused to let anyone intimidate me or destroy my inner peace. When I look back, it was God's hand leading and directing me.

I was threatened and told to follow their rules, or they could and would make my life a living hell and get me fired. These four individuals, who imagined themselves "the boss on the unit", believed they were beyond the reach of the faculty, with the union backing and protecting them. These ladies would stand together, making up a false story, and/or situation, in order to get me fired. I told them flat out, I would not lie, for them, the Pope, or the Prime Minister, period. They wanted to get rid of me pretty quick. They continued to threaten me, over the next month.

I was told, if and when I was called into the office; I had no option and must back up my co-worker's story. These individuals said, “You don't want her to get fired for the offence she was accused of?” They said they would collectively blame me if this happened.

I said, “Good. She needs to be fired, because we are dealing with people here, not merchandise, not events or things." They tried to rationalize it with me, saying she needed her job to support her family. I couldn't help but wonder, if this was so important, why did she put this all at risk by doing wrong in the first place? It was several years later employees were educated on bullying.

Bullying is a form of aggression, which can hurt and isolate a person or group in the workplace, school, or even online. The most effective way to stop bullying is to create clear and direct policies which are well promoted to all staff. Bullying can be as simple as belittling someone, manipulation, lying, embarrassing another employee in front of a supervisor, placing unfair expectations on someone, shaming a co-worker in public (so humiliation), spreading gossip or rumours or even physical abuse. A bully uses put-down remarks, hurtful teasing, and/or coercion to dominate or intimidate another individual.

This incident came to a head, when these employees circulated a letter, asking other employees to sign it, saying they witnessed me doing something I didn't do. They were claiming I was being rude, mean, and not respecting the residents' rights. I was still in my probation period as a personal support worker. Amazingly, almost the entire day shift of personal support workers, housekeeping, and kitchen staff were signing this letter/petition, even employees who I didn't know or hadn't worked with. Talk about being bullied by the instigators and applying peer pressure to others.

It is important to be aware of the signs of bullying at any level, to help you protect yourself and others. Two employees came to me and informed me of this situation, making me aware. However, I already knew and had started my own interviews and investigation, confronting staff who had signed and speaking with residents. Bullies often use passive-aggressive behaviours to make others feel insecure or threatened. Later, when I was cleared, several employees came to me and said they felt pressured and intimidated, saying to themselves, "better her than me."

Bullying, when not addressed, can and does lead to a toxic work/school environment which harms peoples mental health. Reporting bullying to your HR teacher or manager (human resource department) can ensure the company will address the issues in the safest and most appropriate way.

While the Bible doesn't talk directly about bullying, we can still use biblical principles to address the issue. The Bible commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves, in Mark 12:31, and to treat others the way we would like to be treated, in Luke 6:31.

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